Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sutter's Sands by Marilyn Cram Donahue [1971]

The scan of this unusual and gorgeous cover was obtained via an online bookseller.

I'm halfway through the novel and don't think I'm premature in writing a summary nor giving it 3 Stars [out of 5]. It's well written, moody, suspenseful...but has some major logical loopholes, imo.

The author lets the cat out of the bag too fast. We very quickly see the negative and hostile attitudes and interactions of the folks at Sutter's mansion. The chief maid is nearly physically assaultive to another seeming member of the staff. Our heroine is warned by the maid's husband to be careful and points to a bruise on his chin. Um...I don't know many men who'd admit to a veritable FEMALE stranger that he's an abused husband, and seeing how our heroine IS niece of Mr. Sutter -- the chief maid's boss [read: bread and butter] -- methinks the maid [who I visualized as that big clunky ugly chick "Maude" in the Andy Griffith Show episode of 3 escaped female convicts who take Barney and Floyd hostage in the cabin] wouldn't dare even consider lifting a finger against her. We quickly see who the heroine will fall for. Mr. Sutter's strange attitudes [I know it's to be expected, but his quirks and foibles are quickly laid bare to our eyes]. The fact that heroine's dead dad's letter is hidden away from her [she had time to open the letter, read it and carefully reseal it prior to handing it over to her weird uncle] in uncle Sutter's Bible. She sees him place it there, and it's secured with a key. Now she uneasily decides -- despite all the hostile drama and creepiness of the place -- to hang around just long enough to get that little golden key from uncle Sutter's belt and snatch the letter out of the Bible. Wow...why not just TAKE the entire Bible [it's a standard family edition], flee to the Florida mainland, cut its locked straps, take out the letter and mail the Bible back to uncle Sutter?

Another turnoff is the way a Native American [Seminole] female character is written. As in "The Shadow on Spanish Swamp" [reviewed a while back/different author], the authoress seems compelled to include a "minority" character...and then botches it. Said characters are written as VERY noble and VERY beautiful and VERY wonderful. This uneasy "walking on egg shells" quality. I know white authors, especially at the time, had to be careful not to come off as racist or whatever; but if one is THAT uneasy about writing a "minority" character, why bother in the first place? The "minority" character comes off as stilted and unbelievable; the aim [to genuinely and positively include folks of other races/ethnicities] is indirectly worked against. If I were Native American I'd probably be snickering while reading this novel.

I dunno. Anywho, I continue studying non-fiction/serious "stuff". Will finish this novel and amend the review if necessary; though I doubt it'll be necessary.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Freer's Cove by Ethel Gordon [1972]

Cover scan from...can't recall. I didn't scan it.

Yes, I'm still alive. :-P Have been busy with non-fiction reading and a correspondence study involving 12 courses, with diploma upon completion.

Absinthe recommended "Freer's Cove" when she had her blog Gloomy Sunday. She gave it 5 Towers of Doom, and rightly so: It's a FABULOUS story. Totally Gothic, like she said. Beautifully and patiently written; a genuine work of art.

The story involves Daisy, a 20-something college student working towards a degree, whose marriage is now on the rocks. She and husband had a whirlwind romance and a hasty marriage...of which they repented in leisure. They live on a shoestring budget in a ramshackle apartment on a rundown side street in NYC. Daisy, originally from Illinois, is practical and tries to make do; her husband, a selfish and vain git, spends whatever extra money is available to him on clothing for himself. Both are students with hectic schedules, part-time jobs, deadlines and mounting debt.

And then Daisy discovers she's pregnant.

Her husband demands an abortion (recall this is in the early 70s, height of Roe vs. Wade). Daisy can't bear the thought of abortion; she decides to leave and surrender the baby up for adoption (good for you Daisy!!).

Daisy finds a quality adoption agency. She's arrived for her 1st appointment and for an initial check with a physician, when Amos Freer approaches her in the waiting room. His wife Joan is also pregnant; she's a delicate soul who's miscarried before. Would Daisy accompany him to Freer's Cove, befriend Joan and be her companion until both babies are due? Daisy will be given room and board, and quality physician care during.

Daisy agrees. That same day Amos drives her from NYC to Freer's Cove in Maine. She and Joan immediately befriend each other. Ernest, Amos' brother, does not; he dislikes and distrusts Daisy. Sibling rivalries, old hatres and grudges beseige the mansion.

And then there's the matter of Freer children meeting with strange accidents...and even death.

Riveting. Super suspenseful. Gloomy and atmospheric. Read it or miss out. ;-)